What you need to know
Brian Fargo is the studio head of inXile Entertainment, a role-playing game development team acquired by Microsoft in 2018.
inXile Entertainment is currently working on its first game under Xbox Game Studios, a time-bending role-playing adventure called Clockwork Revolution.
Speaking on The Fourth Curtain podcast, Fargo discussed how his job has changed under Microsoft, what Clockwork Revolution is, if AI will be part of game development, and more.
Role-playing game developer inXile Entertainment is working on its next game, and we've got a bit more insight into how the studio is operating.
That's thanks to studio head Brian Fargo, who guested on The Fourth Curtain podcast to talk about his history in the gaming industry, how things have changed as part of Xbox under Microsoft, and more. Speaking on the many years of operating as an independent team, Fargo is quite clear that it was frequently financially stressful.
"There's this constant kind of running and panic, this gun to your head. I would come into the office and see people laughing and having coffee, and having a great time, and I used to think 'One day, I hope I can be like them, where I walk in without a care in the world,'" he says, adding that since inXile Entertainment became part of Xbox Game Studios in 2018, his efforts are now focused on the "creative aspects" of the business, and that he's enjoying being in design meetings.
Fargo also indicates that these creative decisions are still being made entirely by the studio, saying that "There's no micromanaging at all. [Microsoft] bought us because they trust us."
What is Clockwork Revolution?
Announced during the 2023 Xbox showcase, Clockwork Revolution is described as inXile's first AAA game, and is also the first game fully developed as part of Xbox Game Studios. The game is a first-person RPG set in a steampunk city called Avalon, where the player discovers the ability to travel back and forth in time, watching how their decisions play out years later. Clockwork Revolution does not currently have a release date.
Fargo says the studio wants to emphasize "reactivity," giving an example of an ethical dilemma where a player could travel back in time to stop a serial killer, only to realize that in the past, this character isn't a killer yet. Time travel could also induce sillier reactions, such as bringing a specific hat to the past and kickstarting a fashion trend.
Does AI have a role to play in game development?
Speaking on the topic of AI, Fargo is careful with his words, saying that being "pro-AI" means different things to different people. The studio head says that game developers can and should find ethical ways to use AI, such as eliminating busywork in looking through motion capture data. Fargo rejects the notion of just directly using something AI-generated in a game however, saying the team isn't going to use tools like Midjourney to generate something and put it into a game.
"I see benefit in many ways for it, but people are very high-alert for it, so I have to answer carefully without giving the wrong impression of what's acceptable," he says, adding that he's "not convinced" AI has a place in writing or crafting NPCs.
Microsoft recently announced a partnership with Inworld, investing in AI game development tools for designing questlines, stories, and worlds.
Analysis: I'm really looking forward to this game
Obviously we may still have a wait ahead (I'm very skeptical Clockwork Revolution is out anytime next year) but this game is right up my alley in so many different ways. inXile Entertainment developers always seem super-hungry, eager to prove themselves whenever I've spoken to them, so I'm hoping everything pans out well.
I also appreciate Fargo's candor when discussing AI and its place in gaming. I understand AI is here to stay in a lot of ways, and there are ethical ways of using it, but I'm also extremely cautious about any possibly threat to the people who actually make games. I want more designers, writers, producers, and testers in the world, not less.